The Zimmerman outcome only makes things murkier
TALLAHASSEE, FL–Fresh on the heels of the landmark decision in which George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second degree murder or even manslaughter in the shooting death of 17 year-old black teenager Trayvon Martin, even after admitting that he did indeed shoot the unarmed teen to death, Florida residents are seeking answers as to what circumstances exactly dictate the legal killing of blacks.
“It’s definitely pretty confusing,” says Mark Dotson, an auto detailer from Port St. Lucie, “Is it always legal to shoot a black kid to death? I watched the trial and it seemed like there was some kind of argument, but in the end it didn’t seem to matter either way. I mean, if it’s legal in the first place, why have a trial? And if it’s not legal, why wasn’t he convicted of something? He even said he did it, right?”
According to legal experts, in Florida a person has the right to defend himself if he feels his life is in danger, using whatever force is deemed necessary. For many, says lawyer Peter West, the mere sight of a black person can trigger feelings of imminent danger.
“In the eyes of most judges, that means it is usually perfectly legal to shoot a black person to death,” says West, “If you’ve ever encountered a black man on a dark and empty street, you know how threatening that can be. It’s pretty scary for a white guy. Now imagine you’re a Hispanic Jew. I think the jury made the right decision.”
Still, some residents argue that the mere fact that Zimmerman was charged with a crime clouds the issue.
“If he didn’t do anything wrong, and I don’t believe he did, why was Zimmerman arrested?” asks Shanda Fraley, a nurse from Orlando, “It makes you wonder how you would react in a similar situation. If I see a black guy walking toward me, am I going to hesitate because I’m worried that I’m the one who will be charged with a crime? Or will I confidently blow the guy away?”
According to West, the outcome of the George Zimmerman will likely produce two positive repercussions.
“First, we’re going to see folks taking matters into their own hands on a more regular basis by shooting first and asking questions later,” West explains, “That’s going to make it easier on law enforcement because crimes they would otherwise feel the need to investigate may not even occur. Secondly, you’re going to see fewer black folks walking the streets, especially late at night. Statistics show that when a crime occurs, 98% of the time a black person is near the area. Crime rates are going to fall. The only downside is that more black kids will be arming themselves for protection against shooting attacks, but the truth is most whites assume a black is armed already, so that point is largely moot.”